Simple, Unexpected Acts And Mighty Winds of Change

I’ve seen obituaries in several places for a woman I had never heard of but who, by her simple act of making herself visible, may have set in motion the winds of change that have brought homosexuals out of the backwaters of contempt and hatred into more-or-less normalized participation in the main stream of American life.

Her name was Jeanne Manford.  She had a son.  She loved him and she said so, publicly,  when most Americans loathed him and ‘his kind.’

Mrs. Manford was a mother of three and a New York City elementary school teacher when her defiance in the face of violence thrust her onto the national stage and led her to found an organization known as PFLAG, which now has more than 200,000 members and more than 350 affiliates across the nation.

In April 1972, one of her sons, the late Morty Manford, was beaten at a gay rights demonstration in New York by a former amateur boxing champion, and police failed to respond, Swan said.

Mrs. Manford penned a letter to the New York Post later that month that read: “I have a homosexual son, and I love him.”

Not long after, she marched with her son in New York’s Christopher Street Liberation Day March, a precursor to present day Pride parades, carrying a sign saying: “Parents of gays: Unite in support for our children.”

“She never thought twice about it. She fought for him,” Swan recalled. “This was a 5-foot-2, thin, blond woman who had a spine of steel. She just did what she knew to be right.”

Participants flocked to Mrs. Manford during the parade, hugging her and begging her to talk to their parents, according to the organization.

SF Gate: 

Love on its feet. Many miles traveled.

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